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Thabane plots fight-back

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MASERU – A VETERAN of Basotho politics and a survivor of the country’s often treacherous political terrain, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, is rolling his sleeves for yet another fight.
This is the fight that could derail his quest to rule until he is close to 90.
But will he survive?
The signs are ominous, but who can rule out Cyclone Tom?

He returned from exile in South Africa in February 2017 and months later, thousands of All Basotho Convention (ABC) party members drowned the Setsoto Stadium in their yellow colours as Thabane was inaugurated as Prime Minister – heralding the return of a man who had fled the country in 2015 in fear of his life.
Thabane says he plans on staying on as Prime Minister until 2027.
But, at 80, many believe he is well into his twilight and, given the tumult in his party, he may fade away rather than go in a blaze of glory.

At a rally in Mosalemane on Sunday, gone were the huge numbers that some of his rallies were known for – signaling the troubled times that could lie ahead as a rival faction energetically plots against him.
A paltry but enthusiastic crowd occupied the Mosalemane football ground where praises for Thabane were sung.
And Thabane, who had just addressed thousands of people in Likhoele a week earlier, did not hide his worries.
His voice and body language showed signs of irritation.

Looking at the reduced size of his following at his third rally to counter his internal party rivals last Sunday in Mosalemane constituency, Thabane asked where others were.
“I know that the ABC has a large following. Now, where are others?” he asked rhetorically, adding that they had been “separated by the national executive committee elections”.
He said he knew they were not enough, dangling his age as a plus.
“At my age I am working for oneness and truth,” he said.

In a sign of the widening gulf in the party, Thabane’s nemesis, Professor Nqosa Mahao, whose election as party deputy in February is being fiercely challenged in the High Court, had held his own rally in the same constituency a week earlier.
There are two major factions in the ABC.
There is the pro-Mahao faction called Likatana (rags after Thabane derogatively called Mahao a rag blown by the wind).
Thabane’s followers are called Bo-Isaiah (after the First Lady ’Ma-Isaiah).

Both factions have used public gatherings to gauge their support by holding parallel rallies every weekend lately.
Thabane blamed the poor attendance at his rally on the Likatana faction.
“It is abnormal that when the leader holds a rally, there are other constituencies that hold parallel rallies,” he said, suggesting that other ABC members who could have attended his gathering opted to go to the Likatana’s.
Thabane repeatedly said there is no way the leader could hold a rally and the constituencies also hold their own.
He said that must come to an abrupt end as it derails the party.

Thabane said it is against his party’s rules that when he holds rallies as the leader, constituencies also hold their own.
He said the war in the ABC was destroying the party, while also having a direct bearing on the stability of the government and economic growth as party leaders spend more time on factionalism than on developmental issues.
As for his own gatherings, Thabane said he has held the rallies thrice to build and unite the party.
Leading the nation, he said, is not “like a walk in the park”.
“I love all ABC members without discriminating against them. To lead the nation is a challenge itself especially in big parties like ABC,” he said.

Although visibly angered by the dispute with Mahao’s faction, Thabane said he is ready for the roundtable to iron out issues.
He said he would compromise and be patient for the sake of the ABC because “the party is my wound”.
“When the time of God comes we will find peace and stability,” he said.
It was a speech by a man determined to hang on and cannot wait for the turbulence to end.
The Mahao challenge is the latest in a life of political struggles for Thabane.
He has survived before, sometimes by changing parties and has been on the local political scene for far too long to start writing his political epitaph despite the tough times he is facing.

Thabane has served both military and civilian regimes, surviving purge after purge.
Before Lesotho’s second Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan was overthrown by the military in 1986, Thabane served as his Principal Secretary for Health.
Despite the purge, Thabane found a place in the military regime, working as Foreign Affairs Minister under Major General Justin Lekhanya from 1990 to 1991.
He ended up as a Cabinet minister in Pakalitha Mosisili’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government before leaving to form the ABC in 2006.

In 2012, Thabane headed the country’s first coalition government but was forced into exile in 2014 after soldiers stormed the State House and police stations in Maseru.
He came back under SADC guard only to lose power to Mosisili in a 2015 snap election, after which he skipped the country again to South Africa saying his life was in danger.
However, Lesotho had not heard the last of him.
In February 2017, he returned to Lesotho.
In June of that year he was Prime Minister again.

“Politics is a risky business,” he said before his return, citing alleged threats on his life.
Slightly more than two years on, he is in risky territory again, this time against a plot by some of his own.
And, at 80, it is sink or swim.
It seems Thabane is not the one to throw in the towel in defeat.
At this time when his party is at the brink of a major split in its history, he has adjourned parliament indefinitely in what some say could lead to him advising King Letsie III to prorogue it.

Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, who is also Leader of Parliament, stood on motion to adjourn it sine die on Monday.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Teboho Lehloenya said according to standing order 18 the house is closed sine die.
“We do not need to do anything therefore we wish all members a happy break including His Majesty, Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Leader of Opposition and journalists,” Lehloenya said.
“We know reforms are approaching and we encourage members to go to their respective constituencies,” he added.
This motion comes at a time when the chairman of the embattled ABC incoming committee, the Mosalemane MP Tsoinyane Rapapa, has filed a motion seeking to clip the Prime Minister’s powers to advice the King to dissolve Parliament when faced with a no-confidence motion in Parliament.

Had Parliament not adjourned indefinitely the MPs would vote on the motion and, according to some observers, Thabane stood no chance to win the vote.
A retired National University of Lesotho (NUL) dean of the faculty of humanities, and political scientist Professor Kopano Makoa, said the current ABC problems are Thabane’s own creation.
Makoa said if Thabane wants stability in his party and in the government he must let go of the old committee and work harmoniously with the incoming one.

Makoa also said if Thabane and his old committee still maintain their attitude there is no amicable solution to be reached.
“The problem in the All Basotho Convention is Thabane and his old executive committee,” he said.
He said Thabane is all out trying to fight the system of his party.
“That stuck committee belongs to Thabane so it is him who does not want to step down because according to the constitution Thabane is the executive committee himself as a leader,” Makoa said.
He said on the issue of the adjourned parliament indefinitely “there were no dissenting voices, meaning everyone was satisfied”.
He also said according to him he does not think it is a signal that the government is falling as yet.

He said the government can only fall if members can pass a vote of no confidence, “or when his party is separating like now, it is threatening stability of the party and democracy at large,” he said.
He said Thabane is now viewed as a person who refuses to accept democratic rule.
“He has now enraged even donors, yes there are signs that his government is shaking,” he said.
He said a threat is that Thabane’s party is splitting, “that will cause problems because election funds are lacking,” he said.

Nkheli Liphoto

 

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Dead on arrival

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My sister delivered a stillborn baby when she was on her way to the clinic,” ’Matemoho Letšela, 23, barely holding back tears.

Letšela says her sister, whose name she withheld, suffered birth-pangs when she was alone at home in Khonofaneng village in Mokhotlong.

She was then rushed down the slopes of a mountain by some passers-by on foot, striding on the slopes of a rocky mountain, crossing deep gorges as she sought to get to the Molika-Liko Health Centre some eight kilometres away.

When she arrived at the clinic, the baby was declared dead on arrival.

Welcome to Mokhotlong, Lesotho’s mountainous region known worldwide for its big and clean diamonds where the people do not have basic services.

Letšela said her sister collapsed when she was on her way to the clinic and was only seen by some passers-by.

By the time passers-by saw her, it was already too late for her and her baby.

She was eight months pregnant. 

“She was still far from the clinic and away from the villages,” Letšela says.

“She had no one to help her until she lost her baby. She was helpless the whole day until it was too late for her to survive,” she says.

 “She had already lost a lot of blood and could not make it to the hospital.”

Letšela shared her sister’s story with thepost during a tour conducted by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assess the impact of their assistance in Mokhotlong and Quthing districts a fortnight ago.

Letsela pleaded with the government to provide services in Mokhotlong’s hard-to-reach areas to avoid unnecessary deaths like her sister’s.

“My sister was eight months pregnant so the long walking distance might have been the cause of her early delivery and ultimate death,” she says.

She says there are still some villages in her area that are way far from where she stays, villages like Lichecheng where a patient must travel early in the morning, sleep on the way and reach the clinic the following day.

Cars cannot reach those remote areas, she says.

At Letšela’s area, they only have one bus that travels from home to town at 9am and will be back late at 8pm.

Even though they would love to always catch a ride whenever they are going to the clinic, sometimes they just do not have the money.

Letšela is three months pregnant now and says she cannot wait to reach 37 weeks so she can go and stay at the accommodation facilities provided by the clinic.

 “That is the advice from our midwives and I am willing to take that offer,” she says.

“I don’t want what happened to my sister to happen to me.”

When thepost met Letšela at the clinic last week, she had left her place at around 4am walking alone to the clinic and arrived after 10am.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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